DUNEDIN, Fla. — South Korean reliever Seung-Hwan Oh threw just seven pitches in his Blue Jays debut Wednesday.
But they were enough to impress his manager and teammates.
Oh threw all seven pitches for strikes — getting a foul out, a weak ground-ball out and a strikeout — against the Philadelphia Phillies a day after acquiring his long-awaited work visa.
"I thought he looked great," manager John Gibbons said after the game, which ended in a 7-7 tie. "He throws a lot of different pitches. I thought he looked sharp for his first time out so that was great to see.
"He's got a great feel for pitches. His mechanics are real nice and smooth so as long as his arm is strong."
The 35-year-old right-hander had flown to Toronto earlier this week to finalize the visa and returned last night. He had been limited to bullpen sessions and throwing live batting practice at camp before Wednesday.
Despite the delay of his pre-season preparation, Oh said he's as ready as he can be for the upcoming season.
"I felt pretty good out there," Oh said through a translator in the Blue Jays clubhouse. "My stuff was coming out pretty good so I'm happy with that.
"Today was my first outing so I don't want to go ahead and say how it's going to go for the entire season but the live BP and bullpen sessions helped me a lot to get to this stage and get ready for the season so I just have to go back and continue what I've been doing so far."
The Blue Jays signed Oh to a one-year, US$1.75 contract late last month. The deal includes a $2.5 million team option for 2019 that could become guaranteed based on appearances.
Oh had a 1.92 earned-run average over 79 2/3 innings for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2016, his first year in the league, then slipped to a 4.10 ERA over 59 1/3 innings last season.
He had 20 saves in 24 chances in 2017 and 19 in 23 chances for the Cardinals in 2016.
Outfielder Randall Grichuk, who played with Oh in St. Louis the past two seasons, was happy to see Oh pitch to expectations his first time out.
"For not being able to pitch in a game (before Wednesday), he did well," said Grichuk, who was acquired from the Cardinals in an off-season trade. "Going out there and getting a couple of weak contacts and then that strikeout was big. I'm excited to see what he can do."
Oh, previously a star closer in Japan and Korea, is expected to serve as a set-up man with the Blue Jays, getting into games ahead of closer Roberto Osuna.
While Toronto's big league bullpen is far from solidified, Oh will likely be joined by other newcomers Tyler Clippard and Canadian John Axford — who both signed minor league deals that included invites to spring training. All three have late-inning experience, something Gibbons said will come in handy as the season wears on.
"We feel really good about the group we got in here," Gibbons said. "We were wondering a little bit early on but we got some nice acquisitions and that really kind of shored that up."